Overview of Online Psychological First Aid (PFA) Certification
To alleviate the stress experienced by survivors of disasters and traumatic incidents, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and the National Center for PTSD developed the practice of Psychological First Aid (PFA). This evidence-informed approach was improved with the help of people involved in disaster research and response. Individuals who typically render PFA are mental health professionals and other workers in disaster response. PFA training revolves around the eight PFA Core Actions.
The NCTSN does not certify PFA practitioners; rather, PFA is an additional skill that mental health and disaster response workers may only opt to learn. Typically, a certificate is given to individuals who complete the course. It is recommended that aspiring PFA practitioners gain field experience even if they have taken an online training course.
PFA Training Requirements
PFA training is designed to help participants learn about and internalize the objectives of delivering PFA and how to do it in different situations. While the training is completely online, the number of training providers is limited. Currently, only NCTSN and Johns Hopkins University have active online PFA training courses.
Information and Requirements
No degree or previous education is required to enroll in a PFA training course, which is usually free. Johns Hopkins University (JHU) charges a fee to obtain the certificate, but if participants are only interested in the training itself, they may enroll in the course for free. It should be noted that even though anyone can participate in a PFA course, it would be pointless to undergo training if he or she is not a disaster response worker or a mental health professional. These courses may be completed within a day or a few weeks, depending on the provider. Upon finishing the course, participants receive a certificate of completion.
Participants only need a laptop and a stable, high-speed internet connection to access the training materials.
Online PFA Training Information
Online PFA training is officially provided by NCTSN, the organization that developed the PFA practice, but JHU also offers its own course. Training is generally brief, lasting only six hours (NCTSN) or an accumulated eight hours (JHU). While onsite classes are also available, online classes might be preferred by many because they are more accessible and contain the same information.
The objectives of PFA are an important aspect of the training. There are eight objectives or core actions: contact and engagement, safety and comfort, stabilization, information gathering on current needs and concerns, practical assistance, connection with social supports, information on coping, and linkage with collaborative services. After learning about these actions, participants are then taught to apply them in various settings and locations, such as shelters (for the general population and for people with special needs), triage areas, emergency departments of hospitals, crisis hotlines, and disaster assistance service centers, among others.
The NCTSN training is self-paced and conducted using narrated study materials, interactive media, and video demonstrations. To reinforce the lectures, a Learning Community is available where participants can share their PFA experiences and receive guidance from seasoned practitioners. On the other hand, JHU holds a class once a week for five weeks, with each class spanning an hour or two. The PFA objectives are repackaged into JHU's RAPID model (Reflective Listening/Rapport, Assessment and Prioritization, Intervention, and Disposition).
Once participants finish training, they receive a certificate of completion that can be shared with employers or on online networking platforms. NCTSN requires that participants score at least 80% in the post-training test to earn the certificate. Despite holding a certificate, participants are expected to perform field work before being eligible to practice PFA independently.
Online PFA training tackles the eight objectives of PFA and how to apply them in different situations. This short course training is offered by NCTSN and JHU and can be availed for free.